Sunday, 15 September 2013

We've been treated to some bold concepts and big reveals like the Porsche 918 Spyder and BMW i8 at this year's Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung (aka Frankfurt Motor Show). Now after dashing through downpours and dodging crowds in the multiple halls at Messe Frankfurt, it's time to round-off our coverage of this automotive hardware spectacular with a look at some of our other favorites from the around show floor.
While this is essentially a photo tour of the show, some of the vehicles in our gallery deserve an extra mention.
Brabus B63S 700 6x6
The already beastly Mercedes G63 AMG 6x6 got a little more aggressive at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Tuning shop Brabus added carbon fiber and chrome body work to the six-wheeler's exterior and fiery red Mastik leather/Alcantara trim inside. More importantly, it juiced the Biturbo V8 engine up more than 150 horses with a kit that includes beefier dual turbos, high-performance metal catalsts and stainless steel sport exhaust. The 700-hp B63S runs to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 7.4 seconds ... not bad for a 4-ton apocalypse rover.
Ford Mondeo Vignale Concept
Ford previewed a move upmarket with the Mondeo Vignale Concept. The concept revives the old Vignale coachbuilder badge for what Ford calls a ''unique upscale product and ownership experience'' for the European market, where it doesn't sell Lincoln-brand models.
"Vignale will offer the highest expression of the Ford brand in Europe from a product and from an ownership experience perspective," says Stephen Odell, Ford’s president of Europe, Middle East and Africa. "The Ford Mondeo Vignale Concept showcases the features that customers tell us they want in terms of styling and quality, advanced technology and exclusivity."
Ford plans to launch the Vignale by 2015, and the Mondeo Vignale Concept provides a look at what buyers can expect. It is shown as both a four-door saloon and wagon, featuring quilted trim, chrome highlights, and the Ford Sync with MyFord Touch connectivity system.
Spark-Renault SRT_01E
Renault plans to enter next year's FIA Formula E Championship. On its way toward that goal, it debuted the Spark-Renault SRT_01E electric racer before the world in Frankfurt. The electric one-seater's rear wheels draw power from a 270-hp electric motor. Regulations call for limiting that full output to "push to pass" overtaking during races, maintaining a regular maximum of 180 hp.
“We were enthusiastic about this project right from the start because it gave us a chance to explore new paths," says François Champod, motorsport technical director at Renault Sport Technologies and Formula E coordinator. "No-one had ever designed an electric single-seater with this kind of performance, manufactured in short production runs and developed according to a tight deadline. We factored in a number of constraints, including mass, safety and thermics. Harnessing the complementary skills of the consortium members, the Spark-Renault SRT_01E is an excellent synthesis of current knowledge. We are sure that it will prove to be a stand-out single-seater in motorsport history.”
The SRT_01E will get to prove itself starting in September 2014.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Thin films of gallium arsenide appear to reduce energy loss in stacked solar cells

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a new system for strengthening the connections between stacked solar cells which could improve the overall efficiency of concentrated photovoltaic technology and reduce the cost of solar energy production. The hardened connections could theoretically enable these cells to operate at concentrations of up to 70,000 suns while minimizing wasted energy.
Stacked solar cells are made up from several solar cells that are stacked one on top of the other. This arrangement allows up to 45 percent of the absorbed solar energy to be converted into electricity, a significant improvement over single-junction solar cells which have a theoretical maximum conversion rate of 33.7 percent. The trick is to ensure that the junctions between these stacked cells do not waste any energy in the form of heat which effectively "siphons off the voltage the cells produce."
The team at NCSU has discovered that by inserting a very thin film layer of gallium arsenide into the connecting junction of stacked cells they can eliminate energy loss without affecting solar absorption capabilities. Usually, at intensities above 700 suns, the solar cell’s connecting junctions start to break down causing considerable loss of energy – the more junctions, the greater the voltage loss.
"Now we have created a connecting junction that loses almost no voltage, even when the stacked solar cell is exposed to 70,000 suns of solar energy," says Dr. Salah Bedair, a professor of electrical engineering at NCSU and senior author of the paper on this research. "And that is more than sufficient for practical purposes, since concentrating lenses are unlikely to create more than 4,000 or 5,000 suns worth of energy."
This is not a technology you are likely to see in your home anytime soon. It is more geared for large scale solar power. Stacked cells are generally used in conjunction with optical concentration devices, often Fresnel lenses, mounted on a dual-axis solar trackers that keep the cell facing the Sun's rays during daylight. This brings to light potential challenges with elements of scalability and synthesis of the thin film layers.
"This [system] should reduce overall costs for the energy industry because, rather than creating large, expensive solar cells, you can use much smaller cells that produce just as much electricity by absorbing intensified solar energy from concentrating lenses, explains Dr. Bedair. "And concentrating lenses are relatively inexpensive."
It is conceivable to see how this more advantageous way of strengthening stacked solar cells could produce cheaper solar power if gallium arsenide thin film layers can be manufactured cost effectively and on a large scale.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The motor is built into the front wheel, whereas the rider’s pedaling action – as is the c...

First of all, the 2X4 is indeed a hauler. It can schlep up to 100 lb (45 kg) on its front-located cargo bed. According to NTS, the way in which the load is centered over the 24-inch front wheel – along with its patented steering system – allows for “the best possible balance, handling and maneuverability in tight urban environments.”Cargo bikes are nothing new, nor are electric-assist bikes, nor even two-wheel-drive models. NTS Works’ 2X4 Cargo Bike is definitely unique, however, in the way that it combines all three.
Secondly, it does also provide riders with electric pedaling assistance via a hub motor. There are three levels of assistance, that automatically kick in as the rider’s pedaling resistance increases. One charge of the rebuildable 36-volt 500-Wh lithium-ion battery pack (which has a lifetime warranty) is reportedly good for about 30 miles (48 km) of “real world” riding. It takes four hours to recharge.
The 250-watt motor, however, is what allows the bike to get away with being described as a two-wheel-drive. That’s because the motor is built into the front wheel, whereas the rider’s pedaling action – as is the case with most other bikes – powers the 26-inch rear wheel. It does so via a Gates Carbon belt drive.

Anyhow, it may not be human-powered full-time 2WD, but both wheels do indeed receive power as long as the electric assist feature is being used. How much this may actually help with traction and/or steering is anyone’s guess, although it certainly can’t hurt.
The 2X4 additionally features a double kickstand, a sealed 8-speed Shimano Alfine hub transmission, and an adjustable-height handlebar stem. The whole bike, including its battery, tips the scales at 68 lb (31 kg).
The bike also comes with a bit of pedigree, as it was created by Neal Saiki, the founder of Zero Motorcycles. It was recently on display at the Eurobike trade show, and is soon to be the focus of a Kickstarter campaign. Its planned retail price is US$4,800.
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Monday, 2 September 2013

Bolstering the Indian Air Force's capability to swiftly transport combat troops and equipment such as tanks to the front, Defence Minister A K Antony will on Monday formally induct its biggest 70-tonne C-17 heavy-lift transport aircraft into service at the Hindon Air Base near Delhi.
Mr Antony will formally induct the aircraft procured from the US under a deal expected to be over Rs. 20,000 crore into the newly-formed 81 'Skylord' Squadron in Delhi, IAF officials said.
The American C-17, with a capability to carry around 80 tonnes of load and around 150 fully geared troops, will replace the Russian Il-76 as the biggest aircraft in the IAF inventory till now.
The Il-76 had the capability to carry loads of up to around 40 tonnes.
The IAF has placed orders with the US for ten such aircraft under the deal signed in 2011 and three of them have already been delivered.
The US Air Force will complete the delivery of all the 10 aircraft by the end of next year.
The aircraft is expected to enhance the operational potential of the IAF with its payload carriage and performance capability and would augment the strategic reach during disaster relief or any similar missions.
After the completion of the 10 aircraft, the IAF may also exercise the option of procuring six more planes for its fleet.
In recent times, the IAF has shifted its dependence from the Russian-origin aircraft towards the American ones with the induction of the C-17 and the C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft.
The IAF operates six C-130Js and has plans of procuring six more for operations on small and unpaved runways alongside routine transport missions.
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